CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham and others laid out their thoughts on the state of CSUDH and their goals and hopes for the future of the university, as they welcomed the Toro community to a new academic year at the 2022 Fall Convocation on Sept. 22.
Provost Michael Spagna began the event with a short address, touching on the ways in which the past three years have transformed the university—despite the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. He highlighted the work that had been completed recently, from new campus construction to the university’s new strategic plan.
“We have reconfigured and revitalized our advising and student support models, using an integrated model to ensure that we are a genuinely student-centered university,” said Spagna. “We have rededicated ourselves to our core business—providing world-class education and co-curricular experiences to our students.”
Spagna then introduced CSUDH Marketing Professor Kirti Celly, who serves as the Chair of the Academic Senate. She began with a quick explanation of the senate’s role at the university, and invited those in attendance to “embrace this year and our return to a vibrant, growing, thriving campus.”
Celly asked the students in the audience to join her in envisioning their college careers and to imagine how taking advantage of the resources and opportunities at CSUDH can result in a university journey that is unique to each individual. She dubbed this approach 202U, or “2020-You”.
She encouraged students to engage with the various university communities and “take advantage of the opportunities that abound” on campus—including advisors, the Career Center, community engagement organizations such as the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement (SLICE), intramural athletics, and workforce integration programs.
Held at the University Theatre, Fall Convocation was also livestreamed on YouTube for those unable to attend in person.
ASI President Obioha “Obi” Ogbonna spoke next. Ogbanna, a cyber security major, hails originally from Nigeria, and he opened his remarks by relating how in Africa, “community means a place for growth, a place to be the best of yourself, [and] a place where you’re guided to fulfill your potential.”
To illustrate his point, he told the story of how a chaplain at his boarding school in Nigeria got Ogbanna involved in choir practice when an injury had knocked him out of competing in sports. “He kept telling me and my group of friends that being in the choir was going to change our lives,” he recalled. “We laughed. What was music ever going to do in my life? I wanted to be an engineer!”
Ogbanna ended up falling in love with music, and in 2019 was named Nigeria’s Composer of the Year for his work. “This shows that as teachers, as elders, as faculty—simply being diligent in your duty has the capacity to change a student’s life,” he continued. “Being proactive, looking out for your students, and being a guide takes a student that much closer to fulfilling their potential. Don’t just be nice to us, guide us, challenge us to be our best selves.”
President Thomas A. Parham then took the stage, reflecting on the fact that this will be his fifth year leading CSUDH. “What a whirlwind it has been,” he said. Parham went on to enumerate the university’s many accomplishments of the past four years, from new buildings, departments, and majors, to increased community outreach, philanthropic investment, and grant productivity.
Parham took time to highlight the new Once a Toro, Always a Toro program. “We have too many students who stopped their journey, who have some college but no degree,” he said. “Those days are over. We reached out to them and said, ‘Welcome back home, your journey is not done.’ We are going to journey together. That’s what we do at CSUDH.”
“In the CSU, and at Dominguez Hills in particular, we do not measure our worth by selectivity ratios and privilege,” Parham continued, “but rather we measure our worth by providing broader access to the state’s and nation’s citizenry, and cultivating and growing the talent and potential of the everyday students who come to us, changing and elevating their social mobility.”
Parham then discussed the university’s new strategic plan, titled Going Far Together. “It charts our path forward as we continue to grow and evolve into a model urban university,” he said. It supports the goal of social justice and equity, and “articulates and reveals who we are at the core of our being as an institution.”
The president then touched on several challenges that lie ahead for the university, including enrollment growth, recruitment of new students, and the retention of those who do decide to attend CSUDH. “We must be more intentional about wrapping our arms around and serving the needs of students who occupy seats at our tables of knowledge and our buffets of learning and discovery,” said Parham.
Parham noted that the campus is still in need of infrastructure improvements, new office spaces, upgraded athletics facilities, while also being buffeted by uncertainty about funding. Despite these hurdles, the president ended his speech on an up note.
“The administration and I will continue transforming this campus into the model urban university that we can become,” he said. “I refuse to discard those hopes or abandon those dreams. I am convinced of their worth and necessity, and I pledge to continue the fight for all of those things that will help us continue to climb the ladder of educational excellence we want to be known for.”